My Lotus broke again, but I fixed it. Twice!

Nik Berg

I have been called a masochist many times since buying my Lotus Esprit and, frankly, it’s all beginning to ring a bit too true.

It seems like almost every positive Esprit experience is followed by a negative, and yet I’m gritting my teeth and persevering.

After a couple of months under wraps in an underground parking garage (we would say “car park” here in the U.K.), I decided to bring the Lotus out for a “Sunday Scramble” at Bicester Heritage near Oxford. I checked the car over on the Saturday, it fired up quickly and everything worked, but early on the Sunday morning the indicators, which had been fine the previous day, failed, so it was arm signals all the way.

The hazard warning lights still functioned, so I thought perhaps it was the relay and ordered a replacement. A few days later I popped the new part in and it made no difference. A sequence of swearing, head-scratching and web surfing followed, and eventually I simply started poking around the exposed steering column with a screwdriver. That led to a small spark and a flash of the blinkers. Closer inspection revealed that the contacts for the switch weren’t actually making contact and a slight bend in the metal was all that was required for the lights to begin flashing again, and me to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

There followed a full weekend without a hint of trouble when I crawled across London to attend the “Southside Hustle” meeting in Wimbledon and the Lotus was by now lulling me into a false sense of security.

Lotus Esprit NB at car meet
Nik Berg

It performed faultlessly on another 100-mile run up to a cars and coffee event near Silverstone, and it was only on the final few hundred yards as I returned home that a slight popping on the over-run turned into a full-blown misfire. The symptoms, including plumes of grey smoke, were exactly the same ones that forced me to finish a previous trip back from Scotland on a on a flatbed. (Again, we would say “low loader.”)

This time I was determined that I would fix the problem myself. Last time it was loose velocity stacks on one of the twin Dellorto carburetors, so that was my first thought. However, all seemed securely attached, but fuel was clearly finding its way into the exhaust, and more worryingly, dripping out of the bottom of the carb.

Over the course of a couple of weekends I eventually discovered that fuel was pouring out of the velocity stacks, into the airbox. Dr. Internet diagnosed a stuck float and suggested tapping the carb to free it up. When that failed I went back online to find a diagram of the Dellorto to figure out how I might get to the float.

Of course, and thankfully, it was another ridiculously easy fix. I simply undid three screws, carefully removed an access panel and pulled out the float. A liberal spray with carb cleaner and then some more, for good luck, into the velocity stacks with the engine running and all was well again. I literally punched the air with joy.

Having catastrophized the issue for a couple of weeks, mentally tallying the logistical and financial cost of getting it out of the underground car park and to a specialist, sorting the issue myself was all the more satisfying.

Owning the Esprit really does feel like when there’s no pain, there’s no gain. Worryingly, I’m starting to enjoy it.

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    Hey Nik, just wondering…do you use (or can you get) ethanol free “petrol”😀, aka gasoline, and do you use stabilizer in your fuel?

    I always use E5 97-99 octane, which is the expensive stuff and has less than 5% ethanol. I haven’t tried any additives

    Hi Nik, it’s too bad you can’t get ethanol free gasoline. You might want to try a fuel stabilizer product such as Sta-Bil (just one of many available) if the Lotus does not get started/driven often. I have been using fuel stabilizer for many years, and find it makes a big difference in start-up in engines that do not get used regularly.
    BTW, your Lotus is gorgeous!

    You are fortunate that “poking around the exposed steering column with a screwdriver” leading to a “small spark” did not fry something expensive, inaccessible, and made of unobtainium.
    “There’s never enough time/money to repair it right, but there’s always time/money to repair it over” is a prudent maxim to keep in mind. I speak from experience of the ‘bodge it up’ mentality of the 1960s when most Brits (including me) were near penniless and 5 year old cars were rustbuckets.

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